Dubai: The message is loud and clear.
Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has warned interim title holder Justin Gaethje to prepare for twenty-five minutes of intense grapping when the two meet in Sunday’s UFC 254 fight-card at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
Speaking at a press conference held at Yas Beach on Wednesday, Khabib said: “He has dynamite in his hands, a very good kick.
They are all good when they stand up but when I drag them to the ground, it changes things a little bit.
“I have prepared myself to take him down a 100 times. He has to worry about wrestling twenty-five minutes.”
Arguably one of the biggest UFC fight’s of 2020 UFC 254 takes place behind closed doors at Fight Island’s Flash Forum on Yas Island. The winner will walk out of the Octagon as the undisputed 155-pound champion.
Even UFC President Dana White, who acknowledged that 2020 has been the most difficult of his professional career due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but the most rewarding, said this was possible the best fight he has ever put together.
“Anything is possible when these two guys enter the Octagon and that’s what makes this fight so exciting,” he said.
“This is a massive fight, UFC 254’s total (page) impressions are at 23 billion.”
Ok, so now after Khabib revealed his cards that it will be his ‘Dagestan’ grappling against Geethje’s striking and kicks once the Octagon door shuts.
Gaethje absorbed all the hype as he sat cool and fully composed all though the press conference.
When he time came to speak he seized the spotlight and said: “I’m a performer, I thrive under the lights, under intensity. This is ingrained in us.
“My rule is I quit or he quits. I’m here to get better and I just can’t wait to surprise myself again. I will give everything I have to be proud of myself again.
“He hasn’t fought or grappled with someone like me. If he wants to grapple, let’s grapple in the middle, I’m not going to let him take me against the cage,” he said.
When asked if he felt like an outsider in Abu Dhabi considering the attention and support Khabib gets in the Middle East, Gaethje countered: “If it means representing the US its special.
“I’m not even supposed to be here, this was Tony Ferguson’s fight. But I beat him and took his place, I took his soul.
“This fight is huge for me, huge for my country, my family and the small town (Safford, Arizona) that I come from.”
Khabib, soft-spoken and kind (he every gave Gaethje a couple of friendly taps on the shoulder during the traditional stare-down), echoed his rivals sentiments in fighting for his country and family.
“There’s a big difference between Dagestan and US wrestling,” he said. “I know he knows how to wrestle, but I’m gonna to go all night. This is the difference between Dagestan and the US.
“But the most impport thing for me is family. I think I was a good kid to my father.”
Khabib was very close to his father and trainer Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov died aged 57 in July due to coronavirus-related complications
“Right now this is a special time for me with all this pandemic stuff. I don’t like this world, you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, right now I’m focused on Justin.”